Why Good Charlotte are back and doing things on their own terms
Benji Madden gives TeamRock the lowdown on Good Charlotte's new album Youth Authority
After a four-year hiatus, a solo release and a sprinkle of magic into 5 Seconds Of Summer's pop punk broth, Good Charlotte are back with a brand new album.
The band, who formed in Maryland in 1996, announced their reunion last year along with a brand new single, Makeshift Love, the video for which featured their long-time collaborator John Feldman and former My Chemical Romance bassist Mikey Way.
The singles 40oz Dream and Life Changes quickly followed with news that they’d release a full-length album, Youth Authority in the summer.
We caught up with Benji Madden to find out why they’ve decided to resurrect their band but do things on their own terms...
Did you ever think Good Charlotte was over forever?
Benji: "We took a break from Good Charlotte because we really felt like it was our baby. Over the span of four or five albums, it didn’t feel like it was ours anymore; it belonged more to everyone else. We wanted to make everyone happy; we wanted to be good partners for our label and our managers. We started to realise that all the people benefitting from Good Charlotte didn’t care about it as much as we did. We needed to shut everything down. For the last five years, we’ve been completely independent, and it was very liberating and freeing – it felt so good. We decided we’d bring the band back when it felt like we needed to, when it felt right."
What did you do during your hiatus?
"Joel and I made a record called the Madden Brothers. We made that record in a way just because we had one album left on our deal, and we were like, let’s just make an art project. We also worked on both the 5 Seconds of Summer records [Benji and Joel wrote the song Amnesia on the first album, and four tracks on the second], and dealing with their label and management was a real reminder of where we’d been when we were their age. It reminded us that we were completely independent now and could do whatever the fuck we want."
Why did you decide now was the right time to reform?
"Joel kept saying, ‘I’ll make another record when I feel like I have something to say’. We started thinking about what kind of record we’d make now. We got really into the idea of just doing a record for us, for the band, like the first record. We broke free of everything, and took all the things we learned from Good Charlotte when we were kids. Making the new record was a really corrective, healing experience where it was really great to be in Good Charlotte again. It’s really weird to make a record where you’ve already won before it came out; it doesn’t matter where it goes in the chart or how it does on the radio. We went out and played a handful of shows which sold out in five or 10 minutes, and we’re just like man, we’re more Good Charlotte than we’ve ever been."
What were the things you learned being in Good Charlotte the first time around?
"When we started out, we hadn’t even been on an airplane. Everyone told us what we were and what we weren’t. I feel like we were late bloomers; we were young for a really long time. We came from a really small town, we didn’t have any education, none of our parents or anyone in the band went to college. We didn’t have a dad who was in the music business or someone whose dad was a lawyer and looking out for us, we had to learn the hard way. There was a period that we went through that was hard. It was shocking for us when we got ripped apart. For a minute, we put our guard up and we weren’t willing to be as vulnerable as we were on the first couple of records. For a while it changed us, but then we realised actual strength is being vulnerable being willing to be embarrassed and share something real with someone. That’s a real strength we had on our first record. We want to be one of the rare positive forces in the music business."
How are you passing on this wisdom, other than through the new album?
"Joel and I started a company two years ago where we’re managing artists and developing artists. In the last two months, there have been several experiences where I told an artist, ‘Yo don’t do that, because I’ve been there and I did that,’ and it was better for them. Every other manager would have said yes, but we knew what it felt like as an artist and said, ‘You don’t have to say yes to that’."
What makes being in Good Charlotte so much better now?
"There’s no pressure to do anything we don’t want to do or be fucking birthday clowns. A lot of young artists go through a few records and come out the other side and they don’t really survive it. They come out really jaded and pissed. And we’re not. It’s never felt better to be Good Charlotte than it does today in 2016. When we went into the studio it was so much fun, it was like being kids again. All the guys got together, our families got together, all our kids played together and we watched everyone all these years later and it was a really happy event, you can feel it on the record."
Does Life Changes touch on the way fame and the music industry changed you on a personal level?
"Life Changes is everybody, man, everyone’s going through it every single day. Think about how hard it is as a kid, to be a teenager, growing up. Then think about how hard it is to be an adult – we’re all just big grown up 15-year-olds walking around with the same injuries that we got when we were kids. Life Changes is about growing and having the strength and the courage to grow, having the courage to love, and having the courage to try your best. A lot of times in the world it’s not cool to try your best. Why? Because it’s scary to put yourself out there and let everyone know you’re going to try really hard because you really want this, and if you fail you risk humiliation. But we’re all surely going to be humiliated by putting ourselves out there and trying our best."
You worked with John Feldmann on the new album. Did you know from the start you wanted to work with him?
"Yeah, we did the record with John. He’s a dear friend, and we’ve made so much music together. We’ve just been the best of friends through the years, and to make a record with your friend that way was incredible. We never actually got to make a record with him before – we made lots of music but never a record – so to do that was a great experience."
What’s the new and improved Good Charlotte’s mission statement, then?
"For me, as a fan, all I want from bands I love is for them to be real. That’s all I want from the songs, and that’s what we’ve always tried to do, but sometimes when you’re trying to keep a lot of people happy you’re not keeping it real with yourself. We’re not trying to make anyone happy, we’re just keeping it real. In turn, I feel like our fans are happier than they’ve ever been."
Good Charlotte release their new album Youth Authority on July 15 via Benji and Joel Madden's own label MDDN.